Friday, August 29, 2008

Lynne Cheney

It's Friday and I'm not in the mood to be very serious, so I thought I'd share that we recently bought our son a copy of Lynne Cheney's children's book This book is a "patriotic primer," so there is a page for each letter of the alphabet with some little facts and stories. It actually would be better for a child older than our Adam, but oh, well, he'll grow into it. I would say it would be good for a child who is just starting to learn the alphabet and understands about being read to!.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Lincoln-Douglas Debates

In the new issue of Smithsonian Magazine, there is a great article about the Lincoln-Douglas debates. While these debates were merely for an Illinois Senate seat, they affected the entire nation. The reason for this was changing technology. Allen C. Guelzo said that, “The combination of shorthand, the telegraph and the railroad changed everything.” These factors allowed the debates to be published quickly around the entire country and thus brought the debates into national headlines as these men faced off about the issue of the time: slavery.

The debates excited the population. In an era of no television or other diversions, this was high entertainment. “We were fed on politics in those days, and my twin sister and I would nto have missed the debate for all things in the world,” Harriet Middour, an Illinois housewife said in 1922 of the Freeport debate she attended. The debates were three hours long and at first, it seemed the more seasoned Douglas would prevail, but Lincoln gained confidence as the debates went on. The Charleston debate was his turning point and after that he only gained strength.

While Lincoln managed to win appeal, I think we all remember he lost this election. Senators in this period were chosen by the state legislature, not by popular vote, so this had to do with more than just votes. Guelzo recently went back and looked at actual votes and had this been a popular vote, Lincoln would have won. But these debates had put Lincoln in the national spotlight and made possible his 1860 presidential run as well as put slavery back in the spotlight.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Yep, that’s what I was thinking after we found the Garfield memorial in Cleveland. Seriously, it is so overdone and huge, I was just thinking – what is going on here? It was cool to see, but definitely overdone. James and Lucretia Garfield are buried in Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland, Ohio in this huge, almost castle-like, structure. We drove past it twice, thinking it was a church before we realized that this was the grave! The main part is a cylindrical tower:
The Garfield Monument is a 180-foot tall, cylindrical building, designed by architect George Keller. It was dedicated in 1890, two years after the President's death. It sits on a hill, overlooking the cemetery. The outside is adorned with five bas-relief panels, depicting scenes from Garfield's life.

The main floor of the interior is decorated with elaborate mosaic tiles, marble columns, and colorful leaded glass windows. The focal point on the main level is a larger-than-life statue of President Garfield.

Those leaded glass windows are amazing, but again – just so much! I mean, I know Garfield was assassinated, but he was only president for a few months! I found Lawnfield, while still huge, much more appropriate.

You can walk down to the bottom to see the caskets (there are also urns with the remains of their daughter Molly and her husband) or walk up to look down on the statue. Plus you can walk up to the top to look out for an awesome view of Cleveland and Lake Erie.

There are lots of other famous people buried in this cemetery, including John D. Rockefeller, so you can stroll through the entire cemetary if you wish and it really is a nice, quiet respite within Cleveland.

Some thing to remember when visiting:
  • Look for the huge structure and you can’t miss it.
  • Downtown Cleveland is a construction and one way nightmare so make sure you have directions IN and OUT. We live around here and didn’t get directions out – yep, lost for an hour!
  • This is NOT ADA accessible. There are tons of stairs to see EVERYTHING, so if you have a wheelchair (or even a stroller…see the picture below), you will have a hard time getting in. We ended up parking the stroller on the main level and carrying the baby. Not so easy, though, if you are wheel chair bound. The stairs are also very narrow and can be taxing if you aren't in the best of health.

  • The cemetery does close, so make sure to plan ahead.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Important Political Conventions

With elections and national conventions on our mind, Smithsonian Magazine ran an article last month about four presidential convictions that they see as particularly important.
The four they covered were:

1.) 1912 Republican

  • In this one TR and Taft went head to head and ended up splitting the Republican Party and giving the election to Wilson.

2.) 1948 Democratic

  • This was the nomination of Truman for reelection when the Democrats didn’t think they could win. What was important here was that civil rights were tied to the Democratic Party even though it meant losing many white Southerners.

3.) 1964 Republican

  • This discusses the nomination of Goldwater, who would lose in a major way to Lyndon Johnson.

4.) 1968 Democratic

  • This convention was actually violent and hugely disappointing for many:
    From whatever political perspective—party regulars, irregulars or reformers—they all shared an abiding pessimism over their prospects against a Republican Party that had coalesced behind Richard M. Nixon. They gave voice to their various frustrations in the International Amphitheatre during bitter, often profane, floor fights over antiwar resolutions. The eventual nomination of Humphrey, perceived heir to Johnson's war policies, compounded the sense of betrayal among those who opposed the war. The bosses, not the people who voted in the primaries, had won.

There is another online tidbit to go with this story as well, a list of “conventional” facts. Here are a few:

  • The first convention was in 1831 by the Anti-Masonic Party
  • The first convention broadcast on TV was in 1940 – it was the Republican.
  • The longest convention was 17 days in 1924 – it was Democratic.
  • The city that has had the most conventions is Chicago – 11 Democratic and 14 Republican.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Democratic National Convention

The 2008 Deomcratic National Convention started today in Denver as I'm sure most of you are aware. So I thought I'd share the official report of a past deomcratic convention - the 1900 Kansas City Convention. This convention nominated William Jennings Byran, who lost in 1900 to William McKinley, but I wanted to share one you might not normally jump to. Here also is an article on the 1952 Democratic Acceptance Speech fo Aldai Stevenson.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Founding Fathers' Dirty Campaign

Do you think modern politics are too dirty? Please take a look at the election of 1800. Or maybe the election of 1828.

CNN has an imported Mental Floss article titled Founding Fathers' dirty campaign. It is by Kerwin Swint.

Swint notes:

Negative campaigning in America was sired by two lifelong friends, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Back in 1776, the dynamic duo combined powers to help claim America's independence, and they had nothing but love and respect for one another. But by 1800, party politics had so distanced the pair that, for the first and last time in U.S. history, a president found himself running against his vice president.

Things got ugly fast. Jefferson's camp accused President Adams of having a "hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman."

In return, Adams' men called Vice President Jefferson "a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father." As the slurs piled on, Adams was labeled a fool, a hypocrite, a criminal, and a tyrant, while Jefferson was branded a weakling, an atheist, a libertine, and a coward.

Even Martha Washington succumbed to the propaganda, telling a clergyman that Jefferson was "one of the most detestable of mankind."

1828 was little better. Swint wrote:

John Adams lived long enough to see his son become president in 1825, but he died before John Quincy Adams lost the presidency to Andrew Jackson in 1828. Fortunately, that meant he didn't have to witness what many historians consider the nastiest contest in American history.

The slurs flew back and forth, with John Quincy Adams being labeled a pimp, and Andrew Jackson's wife getting called a slut.

As the election progressed, editorials in the American newspapers read more like bathroom graffiti than political commentary. One paper reported that "General Jackson's mother was a common prostitute, brought to this country by the British soldiers! She afterward married a mulatto man, with whom she had several children, of which number General Jackson is one!"

I think the current presidential election is still rather tame. It will have to degrade quite a bit to reach these historic low points in presidential elections.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

President Taft at Cedar Point

My family and I visited Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio last week. We stayed at the Hotel Breakers for two nights and had a good time. The hotel is right next to the amusement park and our time at the resort was pleasant for the most part.

The Hotel Breakers was opened in 1905. The beach on Lake Erie is beautiful and that probably was one of the reasons it was built. As you go into the lobby of the hotel, there are lots of pictures of the historic past of the hotel. You see pictures of women and men in old-fashioned bathing suites as well as time lines of the hotel on the wall.

One item caught my eye. President Taft had stayed at the hotel in 1913 to speak at the dedication the Perry Peace Memorial. It was built on South Bass Island which is not too far from Cedar Point. It was the centennial anniversary of the Battle of Lake Erie in the War of 1812. The picture above shows the beginning of this project.

Plans for the centennial celebration had been in the works for many months, and ceremonies would span two days. On September 10, 1913 thousands of people streamed to the island to visit the U.S. Brig Niagara, recently raised and reconstructed at Erie, Pennsylvania. During the course of the day a series of commemorative orations were offered by a number of dignitaries from the United States and Canada, with the featured address presented by William Howard Taft, former President of the United States. Shortly after 3:00 p.m. guns from the USS Michigan and other vessels were fired to signify the time when the Battle of Lake Erie ended, and cheering resounded across the island for several minutes. Following the day's celebration, 830 people were transported on various official vessels to Cedar Point, where the centennial banquet was held at the Hotel Breakers.

There were no details on this visit at the hotel. Further, other than the NPS site, I could find very little online. I wish I could have found the text of the Taft speech online. My family and I enjoyed the stay even if we did not have all the historical background.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Kennedy Curse?

I watched The Curse of Power on the Kennedys on the History Channel. This goes over all the bad things that have happened to the Kennedy clan and the idea that maybe this family is cursed. Now I don’t put much stock in the curse idea – they are a powerful family and have powerful enemies and add in that they all believed in living life with gusto – they would try or do anything and believed they could get away with everything. I’ve read several Kennedy books and it all adds up to sex, scandal and power. But it does make good TV, hence all the shows. This one wasn’t too bad, it was fairly tasteful and done well.

The program starts with the first immigrants and then covers Joe Kennedy’s background. Interestingly while Joe Kennedy gave the idea that he came from poor stock, he actually came from a well-to-do background, but he just made it so much bigger and more powerful. As an Irish Catholic, he found that he was left out of certain things and so decided he could buy his way into the establishment. Joe believed that everything and everyone had a price and he could fix anything. And it seemed he could. If one of the boys got into trouble, he could fix it and it never happened. It was only after he was incapacitated with a stroke that scandals began to leak out. Joe Kennedy started the infidelity, Rose actually left him the first time and her father sent her back to him.

Joe’s biggest accomplishment was being named Ambassador to Great Britain, as this was the most coveted US governmental post and he was able to return to Britain as a respected politician and thus feel he had beaten the establishment. Joe was actually against World War II because he knew his boys would have to fight and he didn’t want that. To Joe, family was always first. And he was right, Joe, Jr., died in World War II. Around this time, his daughter Kathleen (Kick), also died in a plane crash in Europe. She had married into English nobility, but had turned her back on Catholicism, which her mother saw as the ultimate break. Rosemary Kennedy had mental problems and her father had a lobotomy preformed on her and then had her institutionalized.

Now we all know what happened to JFK and RFK. What I found interesting was that Bobby was so much more the politician than Jack, but it was Ted who was the consummate politician. Now as someone who only remembers the old Ted Kennedy, the early pictures made me giggle a bit. Ted ended up divorced from his first wife – Jack had told him at his wedding that marriage didn’t mean fidelity and this was actually caught on tape – that his wife saw later…can you imagine that?

The last facet of this is JFK, Jr,’s death in 1999 in a small plane crash.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Part III: FDR Presidential Library and Museum

Our third stop was also in Hyde Park – the FDR Presidential Library and Museum. There are two parts to this – the museum/presidential library and then the historic site. The museum/library is a self-guided tour – a normal museum. The historic site is Franklin’s actual house (well, let’s be honest – Sara’s!), Springwood.
This is a guided tour, but we were too late to make the last one, so we just walked the grounds. We did get to see the rose garden where Eleanor and Franklin are both buried. The house is gorgeous from the outside the view from the front is spectacular. Not what I would have expected.

We did get to go through the museum since it closes later and you don’t need a tour. There is a visitor’s center with a gift shop, a nice cafĂ© and restrooms. You can start with a video, which we only watched a bit of. This is a good place to start your adventures in Hyde Park.
The FDR museum and library is much more like a regular museum and very well done (and has AC). The current changing exhibit is “Action and Action Now” on the first 100 Days. There are several online exhibits you can tour now as well. You can also browse the permanent exhibits from the museum online as well.
The absolute coolest thing, to me anyway, was FDR’s Ford. You can see where it was modified so he could drive it without using the foot pedals and in this time period that’s a huge thing. I did have to laugh at the odometer – only 19,000 miles!

You can also view FDR’s White House desk, but what is there in person, that isn’t in this picture, is a huge globe. Really had me going, this globe, it was just so big! You can also see FDR’s wheelchair here – what a change from the wheelchairs of today!

FDR actually used this library as it was built while he was still alive and that is pretty neat in itself. This is also the first presidential library, built as a Depression project.

Things to Remember:
  • This can get pretty expensive as the tour is $14 and I think you have to pay separately for the museum, another $7 (we got there late and got out of paying at all). You also can’t get combined entrance to this and Val-Kill.
  • This is another guided tour and can fill up so make sure to call ahead and plan to get there to make a tour time.
  • There is a lot to see on the grounds, so plan to do some walking.
  • There are a lot of other things to see in the Hyde Park area, as I mentioned in the Val-Kill post, so plan your visit in advance to see what you want.

I’m going to end with a bit of sideline. I just bought my 6 month old son a NPS Passport Book (that's his below) as a way to record all his museums and create a memory book out of it. I have some suggestions at my personal blog on what we are going to do with it as well as ideas for doing it without buying one, but I wanted to share here as well.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Part II: Val-Kill

Val-Kill was Eleanor Roosevelt’s home and has been turned into a museum in honor of her. The big house that is part of the FDR library grounds was his mother’s (Sara Roosevelt’s), but Val-Kill was actually Eleanor’s. Val-Kill (and a “kill” is just a creek in Dutch, hence all those “kills” in New York names.) was originally part of the larger estate and the Roosevelts would picnic by the creek. Eventually Franklin helped Eleanor get set up there so she would have something of her own and so she could come even when Sara wasn’t in residence. Eleanor and two friends, Nan and Marion, went in together to build the cottage. Nan and Marion lived there permanently while Eleanor just spent holidays and weekends there until Franklin’s death, when this became her permanent base home.

The women started Val-Kill industries to help displaced farmers learn new skills in furniture making. The business failed during the Depression, but you can still see some of the furniture on display at Val-Kill.

The house tour is guided and starts with a short video. The video is very general and fairly uninspired. I was not too impressed as while it didn’t actually lie, it definitely left things out and made them give the wrong impression (my husband was on me the entire time to behave and not aggravate the tour guides). For instance, when Eleanor found out about Franklin’s affairs, she offered him a divorce, but Sara put her foot down and threatened to disown him if he divorced Eleanor. Now the video says that Eleanor choose to stay in the marriage and leaves it there. Not really untrue, but definitely only part of the story.

On Eleanor’s desk is a name plate with her name misspelled. A child made it for her and gave it to her and she always kept it as she didn’t want to hurt his feelings if he ever came back.

In the living room area, there are tons of pictures of all the dignitaries that Eleanor met throughout her life. That room is where she met with Jack Kennedy before agreeing to support him in the 1960 campaign.

Now this house does not have AC and they don’t conduct the second half of the tour (the second floor) in the heat (supposedly someone fainted up there this summer). What made me a little upset about this is that they didn’t tell us that we’d only get half the tour when we signed up for it. At this point, we had the choice of this guided tour or the FDR home and had we known in advance that Val-Kill was only a half tour, we would have chosen FDR.

Things to Remember:

  • Ask if the tour is going to cover both floors.
  • The cottage is where the tour is, but the stone house, also on the property, is actually an office building, so you won’t be able to see anything unless they are open (it is an Eleanor Roosevelt foundation). They are actually constructing a new building soon.
  • These grounds are very relaxing and there is a nice trail to walk if you have time. You can definitely see why Eleanor found it so relaxing. There are also a lot on the grounds to see, like tennis courts and a pool.
  • There are much nicer facilities (restrooms, etc.) at the FDR library so if you can plan it, so you can use those, rather than these. The restrooms weren’t bad, but there are no baby changing tables (can you tell I have an infant?) and they are much more “park” restrooms, whereas the FDR ones was really nice indoor ones.
  • This museum and the FDR museum are very close (since they were originally the same estate), both in Hyde Park. The Vanderbilt Museum is also in Hyde Park, so there is a ton to do here and you can definitely make a day of this area.

This was a good experience, but I do wish we would have gotten the entire tour or at least told in advance what we were missing. The grounds are beautiful and the house is a fun experience. Definitely worth the time if you are in the area.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

First American President at Olympics on Foriegn Soil

(President George W. Bush with sprinter Lopez Lomong who was the American flag bearer in the opening ceremonies. Lomong is originally from Sudan.)

Since the modern Olympics were first held in 1896, American Presidents have attended many of them. However, this has only been the case when these Olympics were held in the United States until 2008. As described in Bush first U.S. President to attend Olympic Games on foreign soil, President George W. Bush is the first American President to leave the USA to attend the Olympic Games.

The unsigned article notes, "President Bush is so emphatic about going to the Olympics in China that one might think flying halfway around the globe to attend is simply what presidents do.Never before now has a U.S. president attended an Olympic Games on foreign soil. And Bush isn't just dropping by. He is managing his time to soak in as much as he can.The way the president sees it, this grand world affair begins and ends with sports, not politics. In a long line of presidents who have been sports buffs, there may be no bigger one than Bush, who has set up unfettered blocks of time in Beijing to watch athletes compete."

A White House Press release of the President's address to American athletes:

Congratulations for representing the finest nation on the face of the Earth. (Applause.) The honorary captain and I are proud to be with you. We're here to wish you all the very best.

I first want to say thanks to the U.S. Olympic Committee, chaired by Peter Ueberroth, CEO Jim Scherr, Judge Charles Lee. I wasn't exactly sure what to say to you, except to start with, God, I love our country and I love what we stand for. (Applause.) And I love being with you.
Laura and I and a lot of our family are here to cheer you on. We're just a handful of a lot of folks who care about you a lot. There are going to be a lot of people pulling for you. We want you to win as many golds as you possibly can. (Applause.)

We appreciate all the hard work you've put in to get to this spot. It's got to be really exciting -- thinking about marching in that stadium and representing our country. So I guess all I've got to say is, go for it, give it all you've got, and may God bless you. (Applause.)

I do find it hard to believe that this is the first time an American President has traveled abroad to attend the Olympics. It would have been easy to attend the games when they have been held in Canada for example. Hopefully, this is the start of a trend and future presidents will do this as well.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Part I: Sagamore Hill

Sagamore Hill was the home of Theodore and Edith Roosevelt. This is a huge estate, especially on the East Coast (and Long Island to add), and has remained relatively large. It is a gorgeous area and very serene. You can even walk a nature trial and see the bay (Oyster Bay). The house was out of the family and thus has been preserved moreorless intact for us, as have most of the furnishings. As you walk into the house (no AC, by the way, which in July you definitely notice!), you can feel TR’s presence. There are animal hides, heads and trophies EVERYWHERE!! For an animal enthusiast, this is a great place as you will see many exotic animals from his hunting trips as well as more common animals. The only place without the game heads is Edith’s drawing room, where she decreed that there would only be minimal. TR actually bought the property and started plans for the house with his first wife, Alice, but after she died, he left the building to his sister, Anna, and he went off to North Dakota. He eventually moved in with Edith.

This room, TR’s library, was used as his summer White House. Unlike earlier Presidents, TR didn’t take the summers off, merely relocated to his home here to escape Washington’s heat. Before they installed a phone, he had a runner to bring him messages from town.

You get to see the entire house, which includes the children’s bedrooms (for instance, you can see Alice’s), servants’ quarters, the kitchen and dining rooms, TR’s gun room, and the huge North Room. TR died in this house and you will see the room where he died in 1919.

There are so many great pieces in this house. There is a cool buffalo hide that shows the Native American’s view of the Battle of Little Big Horn that was given to TR by Native Americans. TR’s rough rider outfit is also here. There are huge tusks on display (the second largest ever) and list just goes on.

Quentin Roosevelt died in World War I and there is a memorial to him out front. He is actually buried in France, with his brother, who died in World War II (actually of a heart attack after leading his troops on D-Day).

On the grounds, you will also find a pet cemetery, the old carriage path, the visitor’s center, a windmill, and then the Old Orchard Museum. While the house is a guided tour, you can walk through the Old Orchard Museum on your own (and it has AC!) to learn about TR. This museum was originally the home of General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. in 1937.

Things to Remember When Visiting:
  • Remember to check the times of the guided tours if you plan to go through the house, as the tour is at least an hour and you probably want to start with that.

  • Getting on and off Long Island is a pain and there are tolls for all the bridges, so bring cash. You also can’t pay with a credit card for the tour, although you buy stuff from the gift shop with one (don’t ask me why…).

  • The Oyster Bay area is simply lovely and worth the time to drive around a bit, but do get directions. Once you are close there are signs, but it still can be hard to find with New York traffic. There is also private property all around, so make sure to respect property lines.

  • You can take pictures and whatnot on the grounds, but remember no photography in the house.

  • If you come in the summer, bring water for after the tour – you will be hot and sweaty!

If you have the time and are in the area, this is definitely worth the time. My husband and I both really enjoyed this tour plus at $5 a person, it is definitely worth it.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Roosevelts

You might have missed me (or not), but I spent last week on a trip to see family on the East Coast, but we spent an entire day going to Roosevelt museums first, so you can all look forward to my posts on these stops:

Part 1: Sagamore Hill
Part 2: Val-Kill
Part 3: FDR Home and Presidential Library

So come back and see these posts soon!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Goodnight Bush

When my two boys were toddlers, I read the book Goodnight Moon to them often. They liked the book and I did too. It was a nice comforting book which usually resulted in a smooth transition to bedtime.

As such, I was a bit surprised (bemused? unamused? conflicted?) by the article Goodnight and Good Sales by Brian No at Newsweek. Goodnight Bush, an unauthorized parody of Margaret Wise Brown's classic children's story Goodnight Moon, has become a surprise best seller since its release a few months ago.

No wrote, "In the alternate universe of Goodnight Bush, written by writer and producer Erich Origen and artist-writer-activist Gan Golan (they met while working for a dotcom around the 2000 election), a young George W. Bush sits in his bed, saying goodbye to various low points of his presidency. It's a darkly humorous book that wears its liberal bent on its sleeve—and leaves no controversy untouched, including the satire-resistant subject of 9/11. In a recent interview with NPR, the two writers were asked about sensitivity in depicting the Twin Towers as toy blocks with a toy plane toppling them over."

I once had a morbid thought as I read this great book to my boys. What if a condemned prisoner memorized Goodnight Moon and read it as his or her last words before execution? My wife got the chills as I related this to her. What better way to mock the victims who may have relatives witnessing the execution? Clearly, Goodnight Moon can be read to saying good-bye to life in general. Or, as this book shows, it can be read to say farewell to a politician one does not like.

No wrote, "For more than 60 years, children have oft been lulled to sleep in the closing lines of Brown's tome: 'Goodnight stars. Goodnight air. Goodnight noises everywhere.' In Goodnight Bush, that's been replaced with a more partisan, 'Goodnight earth? Goodnight heir? Goodnight failures everywhere.' Innocuous farewells such as, 'Goodnight nobody. Goodnight mush,' has been swapped for 'Goodnight allies. Goodnight Abu Ghraib 'Cheese!'' And who can forget about the 'quiet old lady whispering 'hush'? In Goodnight Bush, it's a 'quiet Dick Cheney whispering 'hush' to the child version of Bush, who's dressed in a flight suit. Perhaps even more captivating than the text are the images—a close replication of the original illustrations, but with every detail substituted by something from the Bush era."

I suppose anyone can do this with any American President. A Goodnight Lincoln could have been written by southern partisans in early 1865 welcoming the end of the Lincoln presidency which they would have believed resulted in grievous constitutional violations and the deaths of millions of Americans under Lincoln. How about a Goodnight FDR which cleverly rhymed what some saw as the undesired expansion of federal power? A Goodnight Nixon needs no explanation...

Should such a cherished children's classic be used in this way? How would Margaret Brown have felt? I am not sure about this. I appreciate the creativity in parodying this book and the strong passions behind it. I am not just sure if it is appropriate.

Oh well. Perhaps if Obama is elected his detractors can write a parody based on Color Kittens. I can also see a McCain presidential parody based on Sailor Dog. I guess children's literature is fair game for political parody.

Monday, August 04, 2008

The Musical Side of Van Buren

In his book, God and the Oval Office, John C. McCollister provides an interesting quote attributed to President Martin Van Buren from his inaugural address. He said, “ I only look to the gracious protection of the Divine Being whose strengthening support I humbly solict and to whom I fervently pray to look down upon us all.”

Hmmmm…..from the quotation we can surmise that Van Buren prayed for himself and prayed for our nation. Another religious habit McCollister reveals is Van Buren loved to sing and sing loudly. Growing up in Kinderhook, New York, Van Buren attended the Dutch Reformed Church weekly with his family and could always be heard above other congregants when the hymn O God, Our Help in Ages Past was sung. The hymn was written by Isaac Watts and paraphrases Psalm 90. Today the hymn is still sung in England during times of celebration. You can see a video and hear the song here.

On July 24, 1862 the song was sung at Van Buren’s funeral.

While president, Martin Van Buren attended services at St. John's Episcopal Church. The church website advises from as far back as 1816 every person who has held the office of President of the United States has attended a regular or occasional service at St. Johns. In fact, pew 54 is designated the President’s Pew and is reserved for the president when he attends worship services.

Van Buren also attended services at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church as well.